Ripon based online butchers Farmison & Co has invested in a herd of White Park cattle, an ancient breed which was once associated with the Druids and Celts.
Highly distinctive, with their white coats, black points and wide-spread horns this rare breed of cattle is also used as the logo for the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
The Farmison financed White Park herd and their young calves are now grazing on Stuart Raw’s farm in Wensleydale and there are plans to add to their number by acquiring a bull when the cows are ready to be put in calve again.
Under the scheme, which was piloted with a Dexter herd through the same partnership, Mr Raw will pay for the upkeep of the livestock over the next 18 months, managing the herd, breeding and its expansion.
The aim of the partnership is to spread the financial cost for the farmer with a guaranteed outlet for the end product through Farmison. This helps reduce the risks of rearing and managing the slow-growing breed.
“We’re in a position where we can help to promote one of the rarest and most ancient breeds in the country by building the breed up,” Mr Raw said.
“These rare breeds are saved by eating them. The fabulous flavours of the meat speak for itself.”
Although they have been part of the British landscape for more than 2,000 years, White Park cattle, closely descended from wild cattle, came perilously close to extinction as other commercial breeds came into favour.
Numbers plunged as low as 60 in 1973, but have since recovered to 950 breeding cows, though they are still classed as ‘at risk’ by the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
The cows and calves bought by Farmison are registered with the White Park Cattle Society. They will graze on Wensleydale pastures in the shadow of Castle Bolton in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Wensleydale’s ancient grazing land closely resembles the environment White Park cattle were bred to live on, with woodland clearings, rough pasture and wild foraging.
This conservation grazing puts nutrients back into the soil and enhances biodiversity, while also enriching the nutritional profile of the meat with omega 3 fatty acids and adding to the flavour of beef known for its succulence, marbling and taste.
John Pallagi, Farmison & Co founder and CEO, said: “As the link between farmers and consumers, we are in a unique position to protect and enhance this country’s agricultural heritage of which White Park cattle are an integral part.
“Through our innovative scheme, we can offer farmers financial support and give them the confidence that there is a market for beef produced from this beautiful breed.”
The company specialises in supplying meat from heritage breeds and works with a network of farms, primarily in the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
“We’ve shown there is a proven demand for heritage breed meat and consumers appreciate its taste and quality. Our farmers are specialists in raising heritage breeds on pasture the old-fashioned way, in balance with the environment. So long as customers demand this type of beef, these breeds will have a guaranteed future,” Mr Pallagi said.